The Gospel of Mark is a reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, but this ancient document isn’t the only text attributed to this companion of Paul, Peter and Barnabas. Another slightly less ancient text called the Secret Gospel of Mark claims to have been written by the same man who wrote the gospel we accept as reliable. But is this non-canonical text reliable? Was it really written by Mark? Remember that there are four characteristics of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first attribute requires that any alleged eyewitness be present to see what he or she reports. The Secret Gospel of Mark was written too late in history to have been written by John Mark, and like other late non-canonical fabrications, this fraudulent text was rejected by the Christian community. In spite of this, the Secret Gospel of Mark contains nuggets of truth related to Jesus. It is a legendary and elaborate fabrication written by an author who was motivated to alter the history of Jesus to suit his own purposes. It is an alternative narrative fabricated from the foundational truths of the original Gospels. Much can be learned about the historic Jesus from this late lie:
The Secret Gospel of Mark (100-205AD)
The Secret Gospel of Mark is described in a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD), although this alleged letter has been attacked as a forgery by many scholars. The letter is the only source referencing the gospel; there are no existing manuscripts of The Secret Gospel of Mark. Clement was allegedly writing to another Christian leader named Theodore, advising him about the existence of a more expansive version of the Gospel of Mark containing additional stories and sayings of Jesus. This allegedly extended version of Mark’s Gospel was reportedly known only to Jesus’ innermost circle. Clement told Theodore to beware a false teacher (named Carpocrates) who further expanded this version of Mark’s Gospel to include his own heretical ideas.